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New Mexico trapping ban passes House by just one vote

Rep. Candy Spence Ezzell, R-Roswell, speaks against a bill to ban trapping on public land. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

SANTA FE – By the slimmest margin, New Mexico legislators granted final approval Thursday to a proposal to ban traps, snares and wildlife poisons on public land.

The state House voted 35-34 in favor of the measure after three hours of intense debate that touched on ranching, outdoor recreation and animal cruelty.

The proposal won Senate approval last week, and it will head next to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

But Thursday's vote was a cliffhanger. The measure was tied on a 34-34 vote until Rep. Susan Herrera, D-Embudo, called out to register her vote in favor.

The debate didn't fall entirely along party lines, with opposition from some Democrats representing Native American communities and rural areas.

The legislation, Senate Bill 32, was described by supporters as a commonsense step that would prevent the suffering of pets caught or killed in traps and snares.

They call the measure “Roxy's Law,” named after a dog strangled to death by a snare during a 2018 hike.

“This bill is about making sure New Mexicans can enjoy their public lands,” Rep. Matthew McQueen, D-Galisteo, said. “People want to be able to feel safe coming here and enjoying them.”

Legislators on both sides of the debate offered some gruesome stories.

Rep. Candy Spence Ezzell, a Roswell Republican and rancher, described finding a pack of coyotes eating a calf during birth. Traps, she said, are a reasonable way to manage predators.

“I've seen my animals be devastated by some of these creatures out there that literally kill for fun,” Spence Ezell said.

If signed into law, the measure would make it illegal to use a trap, snare or wildlife poison “for purposes of capturing, injuring or killing an animal on public land.”

There would be exceptions for Native American ceremonies and ecosystem management by government agencies. Cage traps would also be permitted in some circumstances.

McQueen, a co-sponsor of the legislation, said the bill would boost outdoor recreation. Hikers, for example, wouldn't have to worry about encountering a trap or snare as they enjoy New Mexico's natural beauty.

Since the most recent trapping season began, at least nine dogs have been caught in privately set traps and snares on public land, according to Animal Protection Voters and WildEarth Guardians.

The state Senate passed the bill on a 23-16 vote last week.

Sponsoring the bill are Sens. Roberto “Bobby” J. Gonzales of Ranchos de Taos and Brenda McKenna of Corrales and Reps. McQueen and Christine Chandler of Los Alamos, all Democrats.

If signed into law, the bill would go into effect April 1 next year.

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